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Copernicus Center

Media: June 2011

| May 31, 2011

Still Dying To Tell The Story

Amy Eldon‘s 1998 documentary, Dying To Tell The Story, focuses on her photojournalist brother, Dan Eldon, who was stoned to death by an angry mob while covering a bombing in Somalia in 1993, shortly after the “Black Hawk Down” incident.

In it, she comments to London-based photographers Des Wright and Carlos Mavroleon that there wasn’t much news about Somalia after the Marines left. Mavroleon responds by saying, “It wasn’t because the Marines were there [that it was in the news]; it was because we were there.”

Sadly, front-line journalists are still dying to get the news out of the world’s ever-growing zones of war and unrest. Some 57 journalists were killed in war zones in 2010, according to the Paris-based journalist advocacy group Reporters Without Borders (Reporters Sans Frontièrs, or RSF).

In April, photojournalists Tim Hetherington and Chris Hondros were killed (and several others seriously injured) when the Libyan city of Misurata was bombed, while they were covering battles between Colonel Gaddafi’s forces and anti-government rebels. Hetherington was nominated for an Oscar earlier this year for co-directing the 2010 documentary Restrepo, about U.S. troops in Afghanistan, while Hondros was an award-winning photographer for Getty Images.

“If we weren’t there, filming, reporting, it is as if it didn’t happen,” Hetherington had told New York Times reporter David Carr.

Hondros had done seven tours in Iraq, and had told Carr that he kept returning because, “Unless it happens right in front of you, you can’t make a picture of it.”

As Carr pointed out in his Times tribute to the pair, “Missiles can be guided from great distances and drone aircraft can be commanded by a joystick, but journalists still have to go and see where the bombs landed.

“Information has sprouted from all manner of new tools, including Facebook, Twitter, and cellphone video,” he wrote, “but no one has perfected the journalist drone.”

During the protests in Egypt earlier this year, CBS reporter Lara Logan was beaten and sexually assaulted for 25 minutes before being rescued by a woman in a burka. CNN’s Anderson Cooper and ABC’s Christiane Amanpour were also attacked, as were a Reuters crew and a Greek journalist, who was stabbed in the leg.

Apparently, some pro-Mubarak supporters blamed the press for publishing pro-democracy views and fueling the uprisings.

“Attempts to manipulate foreign reporters, arbitrary arrests and detention, deportation, denial of access, intimidation, and threats – the list of abuses against the media during the Arab Spring is staggering,” the RSF said in a May 3rd report. “Those determined to obstruct the media did not stop at murder in four countries – Syria, Libya, Bahrain, and Yemen.”

Last month, Logan appeared on CBS’s “60 Minutes” to talk about the attack and break the code of silence surrounding sex assaults on female journalists.

“Women never complain about violence because you don’t want someone to say, ‘Well, women shouldn’t be out there,'” she said. “But I think there are a lot of women who experience these kinds of things as journalists, and they don’t want it to stop them from doing their job. Because they do it for the same reasons as me – they’re committed to what they do. They’re not adrenaline junkies. They’re not glory hounds. They do it because they believe in being journalists.”

At press time, 18 journalists and two media assistants had been killed so far this year. In addition, 151 journalists, nine media assistants, and 128 netizens have been imprisoned, according to RSF – which does not track sexual assaults.

As RSF Secretary General Jean-François Julliard explained, “Journalists are seen less and less as outside observers. Their neutrality and the nature of their work are no longer respected.”

He continued, “If governments do not make every effort to punish the murderers of journalists, they become their accomplices.”

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ODDS N SODS: Kudos to political reporter Mary Ann Ahern for taking Rahm Emanuel to task for excluding her and NBC 5 from a one-on-one interview with local outlets. As she posted on her station’s Ward Room blog (and as Robert Feder reported in his Time Out column), Emanuel’s people “refused to notify NBC of rare one-on-one interviews allotted to our competitors. The TV business is competitive, but typically politicians and public figures who are involved with big events grant the same access to all-comers. When we asked why we were left out of the mix, the Emanuel communications team implied they weren’t happy with the coverage of the VIP inauguration [where some seats cost donors as much as $50,000]. They didn’t challenge facts, but were upset with tone. So they left us out. It’s an old game . . . kill the messenger not the message; cut off the access.” Sounds like something that happens in those other countries . . . The incessant Oprah bashing by local journalists surely will have quieted now that she’s left town. But we predict they’ll immediately set their sights on Rosie O’Donnell, who is slated to originate her new OWN Network talk show from Winfrey’s old Harpo Studios. We see Rosie firing right back at ’em . . . The quarterly, nonprofit Bitch: Feminist Response To Pop Culture magazine has been taking mainstream misogyny to task since 1996 and is still going strong; learn more at

— Cara Jepsen

Category: Columns, Media, Monthly

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